Sunday, December 22, 2013

Breakfast Bites

I've been playing around with the recipe for awhile trying to find a healthy combination of things that will work for a breakfast bite.  I wanted something with protein, minimal sugar, and that would be easy-to-grab since mornings aren't my best time.  I'm not hungry in the morning, but if I don't have something to snack on during morning recess, I end up hangry (hunger that leads to anger), which makes for an unpleasant morning.    

I've found it works best to send the oatmeal, nuts, and flaked coconut through the food processor beforehand.  Using the food processor eliminates the need for chopping and makes forming the bites a little easier since the ingredients are uniformly chopped and small.  Shredded coconut won't need the food processor.  














BREAKFAST BITES
  • 2 cups oats
  • 1 cup crispy rice cereal
  • 1 cup coconut, shredded or flaked 
  • 1/3 cup ground flax seed
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (I've used peanuts and cashews.)
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla 

Combine the oats, rice cereal, coconut, flax seed, and nuts in a large bowl. 



In a medium saucepan, heat peanut butter, honey, coconut oil, and vanilla until melted and combined.  


Pour peanut butter mixture into dry ingredients and stir gently to combine.  


Place bowl in refrigerator for 20 minutes. 


Roll into small bites and store in the refrigerator or freezer.    


Source:  modified from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Mini Cheesecakes

I made these for the first time when I was in college.  My roommate, Lyndsey, needed some sort of refreshments for one of her vocal concerts so we went to work making a boatload of mini cheesecakes.  I just had them again recently at Thanksgiving and was reminded of how tasty they are. Delish and super simple.  This is a great recipe to have in the books.

Notes:

  • You can use Nilla wafers for the crust or you can make the crust below.  Finding Nilla wafers here is tricky so I need an alternative.
  • I've adjusted the amounts based on the ingredients I can find here.  So, I've given two versions for the fillings, depending on whether you are in or out of the U.S.  
 





MINI CHEESECAKES

Crust:

  • 1 cup graham crackers
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted 

Mix together and press into the bottom of cupcake liners.  I use a tart tamper for this part. 


Bake for 15 minutes at 325 degrees.  


Filling (in the U.S.):
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)
  • zest of 1 lemon (optional)

Filling (outside the U.S.):
  • 600 grams cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)
  • zest of 1 lemon (optional)

In a stand mixer, beat cream cheese until light.  


Add sugar and vanilla and continue to mix until well blended.  


Add eggs and mix well.  


Pour over crusts (or Nilla wafers), fill 3/4 full.  


Bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 or until set.  


Top with raspberry puree, cherries, mandarin oranges, or chocolate shavings.  


Source:  Stephanie Moy and Marsha Porter

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Creamy Confetti Corn

I made this for Thanksgiving and WOW-EEE, corn has never tasted so good.  Plus, using bacon where I live is like a super big treat, so I might have used more than the recipe called for, which proved to be a good move on my part.

This is a nice twist on what can be a boring side dish.  You might want to add it to the menu of one of your upcoming holiday meals.  Enjoy!  












CREAMY CONFETTI CORN 

  • 8 slices bacon, chopped
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans yellow corn
  • 1/2 cup white onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, cut into cubes
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup green onions, finely chopped

Cook the chopped bacon until golden and crisp.  Transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate.  Leave a thin coating of bacon grease on the pan.  


Add the corn, onion, and red pepper and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender and the corn is heated through, about 6-8 minutes.  


Add the cream cheese and milk, stirring until the cream cheese melts and the mixture is evenly combined.  


Stir in the sugar, salt, and pepper.  Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed.  


Stir in the green onions.  


Serve warm topped with bacon.  


NOTE:  Dish can be made up to 2 days ahead of time.  Scoop the creamy corn mixture into an oven-safe dish.  Sprinkle with bacon, cover, and store in the refrigerator.  When ready to eat, heat the corn dish in a 325 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until heated through.  

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Pumpkin Cupcakes

Happy belated Thanksgiving!

My first Thanksgiving out of the country was really nice.  I felt a little twinge of homesickness on Thursday morning, but skyping with my friend Gina quickly cured me.  Thanks, Gina, for lifting my spirits.  Then, I was lucky enough to go to three dinners over two days and enjoyed visiting and eating with lots of lovely people.  And, I'm really happy to have a few leftovers in the fridge to look forward to.  Leftovers are, in my opinion, better than the actual meal.  

There are always lots of pumpkin recipes floating around this time of year.  Honestly, I'm not a huge fan of most things pumpkin.  I want to like pumpkin because it's festive and I like the idea of it, but, I mostly like pumpkin pie for the whipped cream and sometimes pumpkin cookies and other baked goods are too spongy for my liking.

This is the one pumpkin baked good that I've made over and over.  They have a nice texture and the cream cheese frosting is my fave that I've ever made.  There are substitutions you can make as well to keep the recipe a little more healthy.  Also, you could leave the frosting off and call these muffins.  But, really, why would you do that?














PUMPKIN CUPCAKES

Cupcakes:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 2/3 cup sugar (can be reduced to 1 cup)
  • 1 cup oil (substitution: 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 apple sauce)
  • 1 can (16 ounces) pumpkin
  • 2 cups flour (substitution: 1 cup flour and 1 cup almond meal)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon (be generous)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Frosting:
  • 6 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 3/4 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


Beat together eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin until well mixed. 


In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and nutmeg.  


Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture and mix thoroughly.  


Transfer mixture to lined mini muffin pans.  


Bake for 15 minutes or until they bounce back when you press lightly in the middle.  


Cream together cream cheese and butter. 


Add vanilla.  


Add powdered sugar, a little at a time, and beat well until frosting is smooth and a little fluffy.  


Frost cupcakes with a generous portion of frosting on each.  


Source:  modified slightly from Portland's Palate cookbook  

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sugar Cookie Bars

Anyone who knows me well knows that I love a good sugar cookie.  In fact, I think I make a pretty darn good one.  So, I had my doubts about whether or not I would really be into these sugar cookie bars.  Verdict: they were yum-o.  Be very careful not to overcook them.  Sugar cookies, in  my opinion, should be soft in a melt-in-your-mouth kind of way.    














SUGAR COOKIE BARS

Bars:

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened to cool room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon zest (optional)
  • 2 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Frosting
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk or cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • sprinkles (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 


In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and powdered sugar until light and fluffy.  


Add the eggs and vanilla and mix for 1-2 minutes.  


Add lemon zest, flour, baking powder, and salt.  Mix until combined.  


Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking pan with cooking spray. 


Press sugar cookie mixture gently into an even layer.  (I used a tart tamper to get it nice and even.)


Bake for 10-13 minutes.  Don't overbake!  The bars shouldn't have any color around the edges and barely be set in the middle.  


Let the bars cool completely before frosting. 


NOTE ON FROSTING:  I'm a frosting girl and wanted to make sure these bars were amply frosted so I doubled it.  It was plenty!  


For the frosting, cream together the butter and powdered sugar.  (Whenever I'm adding powdered sugar, I add a little bit at a time and beat well after each addition.  This should keep the lumps out.)


Add the vanilla and milk.  


Mix until frosting is light and fluffy. 




Monday, November 18, 2013

Peanut Butter Frosting

First off, thought I should mention that this is my 100th post!  Kind of fun to think about the fact that I've documented 100 of my very favorite recipes.  Here's to the next 100!

With that being said, this is not a totally new recipe.  I've shared it before as a possible filling for these homemade Oreos, but it's tasty enough that I think it deserves its own post.  I especially love this fluffy goodness on top of brownies.  I made these brownie bites for my friend Patty's birthday today and she may or may not have been seen just licking the frosting off the top.  No judgment here.














PEANUT BUTTER FROSTING
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons milk or cream 
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

Mix butter and peanut butter in mixer.  


Gradually mix in the powdered sugar, a small amount at a time, beating well after each addition.


When the frosting thickens, add needed milk, a little at a time.  


Beat for at least 3 minutes or until it is a little fluffy.


NOTE:  I would suggest using something other than natural peanut butter for this recipe.  The separate oil in natural peanut butter makes it difficult to get the right texture for the frosting.  Stick with hydrogenated oils on this one.


Source: Allrecipes.com


And, in other news, check out one of my newest and most favorite additions to my kitchen.  I sold mine before I left and felt lost without it.




Friday, October 25, 2013

Apple Crisp

I really love fall.  Way more than any other season.  And . . . I'm missing it.  {Wah, wah, waaaaaah.} Fall just isn't the same when it's 90 degrees outside and there are no colorful leaves to crunch through.  But, I did buy a few overpriced, imported pumpkins and I also made apple crisp.  Both steps in the fall-ish direction.  And the best news of all?  I found oats at a local store, which made this dish possible.

This recipe is from my mom.  I have a handwritten copy that I wrote down a million years ago when I was leaving for college.  It's an oldie, but a goodie.  It's one that belongs on this blog.  Tuck it away for a day when you're looking for a little taste of fall.

NOTE:  The recipe below is for an 8x8 or 9x9 square baking dish.  If you want to make it in a 9x13, double both the apple mixture and topping.  














APPLE CRISP

Apple Mixture
  • 4-5 cups raw granny smith apples, sliced (4-5 small apples)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Topping 
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup oatmeal
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted 


Place sliced apples, lemon juice, sugar, flour, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl and mix well.


Place apple mixture in a 8x8 square baking dish. (Double this if you want to make it in a 9 x 13 pan.)


Mix baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar, oatmeal, flour, and melted butter in a bowl and mix well.


Spread crumbled topping over the top of the apples and bake at 350 degrees for 1-1 1/2 hours or until bubbly.


Serve with ice cream.


Source:  Marsha Porter

Friday, October 18, 2013

Cherry Cheesecake & Brownie Parfaits

What is it about canned cherry pie filling?!  I genuinely love the stuff.  I could eat it by the spoonful out of the can.  I think this is another one of those things that goes back to my childhood.  My mom wasn't a make-things-from-a-can kind of mom, which was awesome, but also resulted in making things like canned cherry pie filling weirdly special and delicious.  Mmm.  It's so perfectly thick and gooey.    

For this recipe, I was prepared to make homemade cherry pie filling (I even bought the cherries), assuming I might not be able to find the canned version, but lo and behold . . . And, I couldn't resist.   

So, there are two ways you can go with this lovely little dessert: semi-homemade or all the way homemade.  I've made both versions and both are scrumptious.

There are three parts to these parfaits: cherry pie filling, brownies, and cheesecake filling. 

You can easily throw these together by using a box brownie mix, Philadelphia cheesecake filling (comes in a tub all ready to go), and canned cherry pie filling.   

OR, if you're feeling up to the task, you can use the recipes below for homemade brownies and cheesecake filling.  I'm finding that I'm making more and more things from scratch because I'm never quite sure what I'll be able to find in the stores here.  Plus, I'm no health expert, but I'm pretty sure there are health benefits to eating less preservatives and chemicals that are found in boxed and ready-made foods.  Although, when we're talking brownies and cheesecake I often wonder if it matters?  ANYWAY, like I said, I still used canned pie filling on these, but I was looking at using this recipe in case I couldn't find it.  

I took these to a potluck the other night and they were a hit.  I used my favorite little IKEA juice glasses which made them a nice size.  Any bigger might be overdoing it.  Or not.  

CHERRY CHEESECAKE & BROWNIE PARFAITS

CHEESECAKE FILLING
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream

Line a 8x8 baking dish with foil or parchment paper and set aside.  


In a stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, whip the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla together until smooth.  


Pour in the whipping cream and start mixing on low speed (to avoid major whipped cream splatter).  

Increase the speed and whip the mixture until it is thick and fluffy, 5-7 minutes. 


Spread mixture in baking pan, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.  


Before assembling parfaits, remove cream cheese fill from pan and place on a cutting board. 


Place filling in the freezer for 20 minutes. 


Cut filling into small cubes in preparation for assembling parfaits.  




HOMEMADE BROWNIES
  • 10 tablespoons butter (5 ounces)
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  


Line the bottom and sides of an 8x8 baking pan with parchment or foil and lightly grease with cooking spray.  


Combine butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a double boiler or a bowl set over a small amount of boiling water. 


Stir until butter is melted and mixture is combined.  


Set the mixture aside until it cools slightly.  It will look gritty, but will become smooth once the other ingredients are added.  


Stir in the vanilla.  


Add the eggs one at a time stirring vigorously after each one.  


When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well-blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer.  Stir until well blended. 


Spread evenly in lined pan.  


Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes.


Let cool completely on a rack.


Cut into small cubes in preparation for assembling parfaits.  




ASSEMBLING PARFAITS

Alternate layers of brownies, cheesecake filling, and cherry pie filling in parfait glasses or other small juice glasses.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Mango Salsa

Sometimes grilled chicken sounds so boring and unappetizing to me. BUT, bring mango salsa into the picture and it's a whole different story.  I love this stuff.  It adds a lot of color and flavor pizzazz (I just made that term up) to grilled chicken.  

I went camping in the desert last night for the first time.  It was an adventure, to say the least.  A fun and sleepless adventure.  I took marinated chicken to grill and this mango salsa.  It made for an easy and delicious camping dinner: just throw the chicken on the grill, top with a huge mound of mango salsa, and enjoy while sitting on the beautiful beach.  Perfect.   

I didn't give super exact amounts in the recipe below.  You can make this the way you like and use more or less of certain ingredients depending on your tastes and preferences.  The ingredients are all so good, you really can't go wrong!     














MANGO SALSA
  • 2 large ripe mangoes, diced  
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced 
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • cilantro, chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper 

Combine mangoes, red peppers, red onion, and cilantro.  


Add lime juice and drizzle with olive oil.  


Add salt and pepper to taste.   


Serve on top of grilled chicken and cous cous, if so desired.   


Source:  Marsha Porter

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Hoisin Rice Noodles with Chicken

I've mentioned before that I don't really love pasta, but what I DO love is a good Asian noodle dish.  I'm a sucker for phad Thai, yakisoba, pho, etc., etc.  So, this is a winner in my book.  It is easy to throw together, colorful, flavorful, and reheats well.  And, I can easily get all of the ingredients I need!  Done and done. 

Be sure to use low-sodium soy sauce.  Otherwise, your sauce might be a little on the salty side.  If you're using regular, compensate with a little extra honey.  














HOISIN RICE NOODLES WITH CHICKEN
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce 
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 pounds cooked shredded chicken (I prepared it this way.)
  • 12 ounces rice noodles
  • carrots, grated
  • green onions, chopped
  • peanuts or cashews, chopped
  • cilantro, chopped
  • red pepper, chopped

Prepare rice noodles according to package directions by soaking in hot water until softened.  


Whisk together soy sauce, water, sesame oil, honey, vinegar, lime juice, garlic, ginger, hoisin, and peanut butter.  Set aside.  


Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat.  


Add chicken to pan with 1/3 cup of sauce and heat slightly.  Remove to a plate and set aside.   


Drain noodles and add them to the hot skillet with the rest of the sauce.  Cook over medium heat, tossing the noodles and sauce for about 3-4 minutes, until the noodles have soaked up a lot of the sauce and become more tender.   


Add chicken and heat through.  


Top with carrots, green onions, peanuts, cilantro, and red pepper.  


Source:  Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Friday, October 4, 2013

Quick Shredded Chicken

I'm BACK (finally) and it feels so good!  I spent a good portion of the day today in the kitchen cooking up some tasty things.  Makes me feel more like myself.  Like I've said, cooking here has been more challenging than I anticipated, so I'm pleased to say that I have some keeper recipes to share!  

Shredded chicken seems like sort of a lame recipe to come back on, but I'm pretty darn excited about it.  I use shredded chicken in recipes ALL the time.  And without Costco or grocery stores that are quick and easy to stop by, I know I'll be using this method often.  I made a bunch today, portioned it out, and froze it for future ease.  Sometimes it's the simple things that make me so happy.   















QUICK SHREDDED CHICKEN
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper
  • 3/4 cup water

In a large 12-inch nonstick skillet with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot and rippling.  


Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper on both sides.  


Place chicken top-side down in hot skillet and let the chicken cook for 5 minutes until golden brown on top. 


Flip chicken and add water, cover the skillet and simmer gently over medium heat for 7-10 minutes until chicken is cooked through (should register 160 degrees on a thermometer).


** Don't overcook chicken or it might be dry.  


While the chicken is simmering, add additional water 1/4 cup at a time if the liquid evaporates too quickly.  


Remove chicken from skillet and let cool slightly before shredding.  


Cooked chicken will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for 2 months.  


Yields:  3-4 cups cooked, shredded chicken


Source:  Mel's Kitchen Cafe  

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Blog Will Live On

Hello friends!












Just checking in.  I know it's been a while.  I wanted to let you know (if there's anyone out there still following and/or reading) that I have not forgotten about this blog.  I love sharing recipes and will eventually get back at it.  

I've been a little tied up with a million things including, but not limited to: moving, setting up a new apartment, running a million errands to buy things like ironing boards and toasters and bath mats, starting a new job, and trying to figure out a new city and country.

Also, cooking here has been more of a challenge than I expected.  Finding ingredients can be tricky.  Finding the grocery stores can be even trickier.  Sometimes it takes several stores to find everything needed for any given recipe.  I didn't really think all of this through beforehand.  I think I took for granted how easy it was to get what I needed in the states.

The good news is that I've been here over a month and my life is starting to feel a little more manageable.  And, I'm thinking about what recipes I would like to share next!  

In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy some funny food quirks I've found here:
  • The powdered sugar, or "icing sugar" as they call it, sucks.  It's really gritty and a little weird.  I'm going to have to work on finding a solution because I love frosting too much to let it go for two years. 
  • You can't buy pork products unless you have a permit and go to a special store where they only sell pork and alcohol.  I'm hoping to go soon because living without bacon and salami just isn't going to work for me.  
  • Food items are sometimes in really strange places in the grocery stores.  Someone warned me about this and told me to always check other possible places.  I finally found cocoa powder in the coffee aisle, near the hot chocolate and butter and shredded coconut in the freezer section.  Go figure. 
  • No Kosher salt anywhere to be found.  Sad.  I love that stuff.  
  • You cannot buy vanilla extract because it contains alcohol.  Luckily I knew about this one and came prepared.  
I have successfully made the following oldie-but-goody recipes from this blog:  Chinese orange beef, tater tot breakfast casserole, Nanaimo bars, and lemon fusilli.  Go me.
  
So, stay tuned.  I'm hoping it won't be long until I am up and running again.  Cooking keeps me sane and makes me happy so I'm going to make time to do more of it in the very near future.  See you soon!   

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Tarragon and Dill Souffle

Every summer I get together with some gals from school for brunch and we always have this delicious breakfast casserole. Why mess with a good thing?  It's always good.  Delicious, in fact.  I especially love when the edges get a little browned and crisp.  Added bonus: it's full of protein.  Also, I should note that I don't typically love dill, but in this it is quite tasty.  So don't let the dill scare you away if you don't love it.  I like to make this during the school year on the weekend and then eat it for breakfast or lunch throughout the week since it reheats nicely. 

Thanks to my co-worker and friend, Colleen for this delicious recipe!  It's a keeper, folks.  You're welcome.   















TARRAGON AND DILL SOUFFLE
serves 12

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted then cooled
  • 10 large eggs
  • 1 pint small curd cottage cheese
  • 1 pound jack cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh dill, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh tarragon, minced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.


Microwave the butter and set aside to cool.


Beat eggs with whisk until lemon colored. 


Add cottage cheese and jack cheese. Stir until blended.


Mix flour, baking powder, and salt with the herbs and add to the egg/cheese mixture. 


Stir until well blended. 


Add butter and mix well.


Cook in buttered 9 x 13 glass dish for 35-40 minutes. 


Let sit for 10-15 minutes before cutting. 


Source:  Colleen Smith

Monday, July 22, 2013

Raspberry Ice Cream

I haven't been the best blogger lately.  Probably because I haven't been cooking much because I'm getting ready to move abroad.  Who knew that leaving the country could be SO MUCH WORK?!  It is.  And, when I'm not packing or stressing out about leasing my condo or getting an international driving license or making a trip to the storage unit, all I want to do is play with my cutie-pie nieces and nephews or do fun things with friends or go out to lunch or take a nap.  I'm so glad that it's summer and I have time to squeeze most of these things in. 

So, what I'm saying is, I might continue to be a less-than-my-best blogging self for a little longer.  I fully intend to continue to share my favorite recipes once I'm settled and have a handle on my new life and job, but I'm guessing that's going to take a few weeks (or months?).

And now . . . raspberry ice cream. 

Most summers I go berry picking with my sisters.  Sadly, I didn't go this year, but I did purchase some fresh raspberries from a local farmers market.  When I have fresh raspberries, I like to put them to good use by making this scrumptious ice cream.   

Now, let's start off by talking ice cream makers/machines/freezers.  There are lots of options out there and which one you use doesn't really matter as long as you know how to work it properly.  I have a KitchenAid ice cream bowl attachment.  It's a bowl that you freeze and use on your KitchenAid mixer.  I like it because I don't have to store a whole additional appliance.  I just always keep the bowl in the freezer so it's ready to go and so I don't have to find a place to keep it since I'm really limited on kitchen space.  I'm including some important tips and reminders about my ice cream bowl below the recipe, mostly for myself, so I don't have to track down the user manual and so I don't make the same mistakes that I have in the past. 

And, here's a little tip that you might find helpful regardless of what kind of ice cream maker you're using:  if you don't like the texture of the final product (this has happened to me a few times), use the ice cream to make milkshakes.  I actually think I've worked out the kinks for texture issues and have included those tips in this recipe, but if you happen to run into this problem, shakes are a good way to go.   

















BEN & JERRY'S RASPBERRY ICE CREAM
yields:  1 generous quart
  • 2 cups fresh raspberries
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • juice of 1/2 of a lemon
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk

Toss the raspberries, 3/4 cup sugar, and the lemon juice together in a bowl.


Refrigerate for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.  


Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes.  


Whisk in the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more.


Pour in the heavy cream and milk and whisk to blend.


Add raspberries and juices to the cream mixture. 


Refrigerate berry/cream mixture for an hour. 


Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer's instructions.


Reminders for KitchenAid Ice Cream Attachment
  • Store the freeze bowl in the freezer for a minimum of 15 hours. 
  • Chill the ice cream batter before putting it in the ice cream mixer. 
  • Set the mixer on the lowest speed and pour the ice cream into the free bowl WITH THE DASHER RUNNING. 
  • Mix for 20-30 minutes or to desired consistency.
  • If the dasher begins to slip and make a clicking noise, the ice cream is done. 
  • Add any solid ingredients (fruit, nuts, candies, chocolate chips) in the last few minutes of the mixing process.
  • Remove ice cream from freeze bowl and store in an airtight container in the freezer for 2-4 hours before serving. 
  • Batter volume grows significantly during the conversion process.  Batter should only fill about half of the bowl when starting the mixing process. 

Source:  Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Book

Friday, July 12, 2013

Really Good Chocolate Cake

I made this cake for my brother's 40th birthday.  He requested chocolate cake with fluffy white frosting.  I like the way it turned out, both looks-wise and in the taste department.  In fact, the next morning I was really wishing I had taken at least a slice home.  Cake for breakfast?  Yes, please.   

I've made this chocolate cake a few times and each time it's been moist and delicious.  I think the sour cream helps.  Check the cake carefully as it bakes to make sure you do not overcook it.  There really is nothing worse than dry cake.  Blech.  Not even worth eating, in my opinion.  I would rather error on the side of being a little underdone.  If you're checking it with a toothpick, it's okay to have moist crumbs (even really moist crumbs) on it. 

I really like this recipe.  It's simple and from scratch. 
      
            

 
REALLY GOOD CHOCOLATE CAKE
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
 
 
 
Grease two 9-inch round cake pans with butter and line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper.  Lightly grease the paper.
 
 
 
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix on low to combine well.
 
 
 
Add oil and sour cream and mix on low to combine.
 
 
 
With the mixer on low, GRADUALLY add the water. 
 
 
 
Add vinegar and vanilla.
 
 
 
Add eggs and mix until well blended.
 
 
 
Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and be sure the batter is well-mixed and no flour bits remain.
 
 
 
Divide among the 2 prepared cake pans.  Using a kitchen scale really helps to ensure the layers are equal.



Bake for 40 to 45 minutes on the same rack, without the cake pans touching each other, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean.
 
 
 
Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes.
 
 
 
Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely.



Source:  Sugar and Spice by Celeste

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Mediterranean Dip

This is the perfect appetizer to make for the 4th of July!  It is bursting with flavor, super easy to throw together, and the end product is colorful and beautiful.  Added bonus: it's full of healthy ingredients.  This is all the best things about Mediterranean food in one delicious little dip. 

It all starts with a layer of cilantro pesto (YUM!) that is topped with hummus, and then sprinkled with all sorts of delicious toppings.  I didn't include amounts for the toppings because it's really up to you. 














MEDITERRANEAN DIP
  • 2 cups fresh cilantro leaves and stems
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ⅓ cups olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons pecans
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups hummus (I like to use the Mediterranean hummus from Trader Joe's.)
Top with: 
  • cucumber, chopped
  • red onion, thinly sliced
  • kalamata olives, finely chopped
  • grape tomatoes, chopped
  • feta cheese
  • pine nuts
  • chopped cilantro

Process cilantro, garlic, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a food processor until a rough paste forms.


Add pecans, pine nuts and cheese, and process until blended, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl.


With the processor running, pour the remaining oil in a slow, steady stream; process until smooth.  


Spread pesto on a platter.


Spread hummus on top of pesto. 


Top with cucumber, red onion, olives, tomatoes, and feta. 


Add a few pine nuts and cilantro leaves for garnish. 


Serve with pita chips, flatbread, carrots, or whatever you feel like dipping! 


Source:  Tasty Kitchen

Friday, June 28, 2013

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

Greetings from New York City!  I've been here this last week attending Teachers College at Columbia University.  This probably doesn't mean anything to you unless you're one of my teacher friends.  Pretty much, it's the coolest literacy professional development taught by the best gurus in the country.  Plus, it's in New York, which makes it an even greater adventure!  So, I've spent the week figuring out the subway, attending classes, and eating too many delicious bakery treats.
 
I have to stop here and make a side note about some of my favorite treats and eats:

Have you heard about the banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery?  People are always raving about it.  I've made a version of it at home before and couldn't imagine that it would be that amazing, but, lo and behold, it was.  What is it about softened vanilla wafers that is so good?  It seems like a weird thing to taste good, but they do.  They really do.   

Second favorite treat thus far:  chocolate chip walnut cookie from Levain Bakery.  These are more like cookie mounds.  Typically I like cookies on the flat side and without nuts, and, actually, cookies aren't usually my treat of choice, but I'll make an exception here; the mound was substantial with an awesome texture and the nuts didn't ruin it at all.  It was very different from a typical cookie and I liked it.   

One more food fave:  Shake Shack.  Everyone and their brother has recommended this place and now I get it.  I went to the original location in Madison Square Park.  It was lovely: strung with lights, outdoor seating, just a cool vibe all around.  While I wasn't overly impressed with the fries (probably a good thing), the burger was one of the best I've ever had.  And I've sampled my fair share.  They are made with high quality beef and I feel like I could tell.  I also had a creamsicle shake which was fantastic. 

Here's a pic in Columbus Circle after a walk through Central Park.  I saw fireflies for the first time.  After I realized I wasn't hallucinating, I was amazed! Those things are magical.  Why do we not have them in Seattle?!

Didn't mean to make this a NYC post, but I just couldn't help myself.



















OKAY, on to zucchini bread . . .

Or should I say bikini bread?  When my niece Grace (now 13), was much younger, she used to talk about the big 'bikini' they grew in the garden.  I can't help but think of her any time I make something with zucchini.  I found this recipe a few years back when I was the recipient of some of the 'bikini' from the garden.  So, if you're looking for another way to use up zucchini, make this yummy bread!  The orange zest really makes the recipe so don't leave it out.  Also, I've adjusted the recipe to include more zucchini.
 
Note on Zucchini:  When I first made this I wasn't sure if I should leave the peel on or not, so here's a tip for prepping the zucchini.  Wash, dry, cut off the ends, leave the peel on, and use a box grater to grate the zucchini. 














CHOCOLATE CHIP ZUCCHINI BREAD

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2-3 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest

 
Preheat oven at 350 degrees F.


Grease two loaf pans.
 
 
Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, spices and baking soda.
 
 
In a large bowl, beat eggs with a whisk until light and fluffy.


Add sugar, and continue beating until well blended.


Stir in oil, vanilla, zucchini, chocolate chips, and orange zest.


Stir in sifted ingredients.


Pour into prepared loaf pans.


Bake for 50 minutes, or until a tooth pick inserted in the middle comes out clean.


Remove loaves from pans and cool.


Source:  Paula Deen

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Chocolate Caramel Corn

I made this as a little end-of-the-year thank you for the volunteers in my classroom.  I made caramel corn and then sprinkled and drizzled it with lots of delicious things.  It turned out tasty and was very easy.  You do need to make sure you leave yourself enough time to let the caramel corn cool and set and then the chocolate dry and set.  Other than that, this is a piece of cake and makes for a great little homemade treat/gift.      


 
CHOCOLATE CARAMEL CORN
  • 12-15 cups popped popcorn
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 ounces milk or dark chocolate, melted
  • 3/4 cups sliced almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 4 ounces white chocolate
 
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
 
 
Over medium heat, melt butter. 


Note:  Use a pan a little bigger than you think you'll need.  When you add the baking soda, the mixtures grows a bit so you'll need space. 


Add brown sugar, salt, and corn syrup and boil for 5 minutes.


Remove from heat; stir in baking soda. Stir well.


Pour over the pop corn. Stir to coat well.


Bake in large roaster or pan for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.


Spread on waxed paper to dry.


Allow caramel corn to cool and dry for a few hours.


Drizzle melted milk chocolate over caramel corn. 


Note:  I put the melted chocolate in a plastic Ziploc bag and cut a very small hole in the corner of the bag which made for easy drizzling and clean up. 


Sprinkle with almonds and marshmallows. 


Drizzle melted white chocolate over mixture in the same way. 


Caramel Corn Source:  Paula Deen 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sophie's Ruffle Cake

I've been wanting to make a ruffle cake for a while and my niece Sophie's birthday was the perfect opportunity.  I knew she would appreciate the girly ruffles.  She requested white cake and chocolate frosting.  So I made yellow butter cake with malted chocolate frosting and added marshmallow filling.

This video was very helpful with learning how to make ruffles.  Be sure to start with a crumb coat on the cake so the frosting has something to adhere to.  The good news is that if your first ruffles don't turn out very well, you can scrape them off and start over.  I did.  I was pretty pleased with the results.  I feel like the ruffles make it look like you really know what you're doing, even if you don't, which I don't.






Ruffles!!



SOPHIE'S RUFFLE CAKE

When assembling cake, brush each layer with simple syrup in order to keep the layers moist.

 SIMPLE SYRUP
The simple syrup is brushed on each layer when assembling the cake to keep it moist.  If you want, you can steep a vanilla bean pod in the syrup to add a little extra special flavor. 
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • vanilla bean pod (optional)
  
Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan.
Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally.
Remove from the heat and let cool before using.      
NOTE:  I made two yellow butter cakes and split each layer in half.  This made for a pretty tall cake.  You could make one and split it into third or fourths, depending on how skilled you are at splitting cakes. 
Happy Birthday, Sophie!
   

















Sources: